By Jack Holland
Supporters of the loyalist paramilitary group the Ulster Defense Association last week listed 249 alleged members and supporters of the IRA on a website with an AOL address. The names included Long Island Rep. Peter King and William Bolger, a college president in the University of Massachusetts system.
A spokesman for AOL said last week that "nobody knows anything about it." Later, when again reached for comment, he said that "AOL was unable to confirm that it was ever an AOL-hosted website."
However, up until Wednesday, Sept. 6, the site could be accessed through a "hometown.aol.com" address. After that, the site disappeared.
As well as the long list of republican names, the site carried a virulent attack on members of the UDA’s loyalist paramilitary rival, the Ulster Volunteer Force. The two groups have been involved in a recent feud, which has so far claimed three lives and forced dozens of families to flee their homes in loyalist areas of Northern Ireland. An 11-year girl has been wounded in one of the numerous shootings.
On the UDA website, leading members of the UVF and its political wing, the Progressive Unionist Party, are denounced as informers, drug dealers and child molesters. Among those attacked most viciously is Billy Hutchinson, a leading figure in the peace process.
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He is described as "bucket-mouth" Hutchinson and as an "RUC informer, pimp, drug baron and gutless thug who has fled the country." It alleges that his brother was "shot by the UDA for committing sex attacks on young children."
The man believed to be the UVF’s chief of staff, John "Bunter" Graham, is also accused of being an agent in the pay of MI5, the British intelligence organization.
The web page was set up by an organization, believed to be based in Canada, called "Ulster Loyalist Information Services." It carried a portrait of slain loyalist leader Billy Wright. Wright, also known as King Rat, formed the Loyalist Volunteer Force in 1996 when he broke away from the UVF. He was thought be behind numerous assassinations and was himself assassinated by the INLA in the Maze prison in late 1997.
Elements within the UDA led by Johnny Adair have identified strongly with Wright in an attempt to win support for a return to violence.
Among the well-known republicans who appear on the "hit" list are Gerry Adams, Joe Doherty, Colin Duffy, and Martin Ferris, the County Kerry councilor, whose address is also included. Also named is Padraigin Drinan, the lawyer who succeeded Rosemary Nelson in representing the Garvaghy Road residents after Nelson was murdered by a loyalist fringe group in March 1999. It describes her as a "lawyer for IRA/SF."
The site claims to base its information on "public sources." When a visitor to the site complained about the IRA list, calling it "one of the most cowardly acts I have seen in a very long time", the webmaster replied that "None of the information given on that page has not already been listed in a public forum." He said that "our solicitor tells us that it is currently breaking no laws."
Last week the RUC said that its computer crimes unit was investigating the site.
"We would always seek to warn individuals if they are at risk," said an RUC spokesman. However, he said that it appears the site is "hosted outside our jurisdiction."